Justice JS Verma panel's recommendations on sexual crime laws

Justice JS Verma panel's recommendations on sexual crime laws
New Delhi:  A three-member commission assigned to review laws for sexual crimes has submitted its report to the government on Wednesday. The panel was set up amid huge demonstrations by thousands of students who demanded tougher punishment for sexual offenders after the monstrous attack on 23-year-old Amanat (NOT her real name). She died two weeks after she was allegedly raped by six different men who also assaulted her boyfriend and her with an iron rod.

The commission, headed by former Chief Justice of India, Justice JS Verma, completed its review of existing laws and prepared its report within a tough 30-day deadline. He said he received 80,000 suggestions from India and abroad after he set January 5 as a deadline for receiving comments from the public to revamp existing legislation to deal with sex offenders.

The panel has identified "failure of governance" as the root cause for sexual crime. It has criticised the government, the police and even the public for its apathy, and has recommended dramatic changes. Some of them are:

  • Need a comprehensive law for violence against women.
  • Must address mild sexual harassment. Every complaint of rape must be registered.
  • Whoever commits the offence of rape shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years but may extend to imprisonment for life. 
  • Punishment for causing death or a persistent vegetative state shall be given rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years but may be for life also, which shall mean the rest of the person's life.
  • Gang-rape will entail a punishment of not less than 20 years, but which also may extend to life.
  • Gang-rape followed by death shall be punished with life imprisonment.
  • We have also included instance of eve-teasing, stalking and voyeurism, insensitivity of police to deal with rape.
  • Voyeurism will be punished with upto seven years.
  • The panel has also included stalking, unsolicited sexual contact.
  • Stalking or attempts to contact a person repeatedly through any means shall be liable to get a term of upto three years.
  • Need for provisions to address sexual assault on homosexuals.
  • Crackdown on khaps. The panel asked, how can khaps, which are unconstitutional, declare a marriage invalid?
  • Police reforms a must for preservation of rule of law.
  • Law enforcement agencies must not become tools in the hands of political masters.
  • Politicisation of crime must stop. At present politicians are disqualified for elections if there is conviction; they should be disqualified once cognizance of offence is taken by the court, you don't have to wait for the trial to end.
  • The ambiguity of the responsibility of law and order in Delhi, the reason given publically by the chief minister for the absence of responsibility, must be removed.
  • Need to prevent marital rape and rape of children at home.
  • Bring sexual violence by personnel in uniform under common law.
  • The panel has observed that the "impunity of systematic sexual violence is being legitimised by the armed forces special powers act." It has said there is an imminent need to review the continuance of AFSPA in areas as soon as possible.
  • Post special commissioners for women's safety in conflict areas.
  • More effective control of subordinate judiciary by high courts.
  • There should be no delay in giving necessary medical aid: even private practitioners have a duty to perform.
  • General laws related to detention of women during regular hours must be strictly followed.
  • Strong measures to ensure security and dignity of women in conflict areas.
  • Equality of women being violated is a constitutional violation.
  • A separate Bill of Rights for women which will ensure that a woman shall have the right to have complete sexual autonomy including with respect to her relationships.
  • All marriages must be registered - that should also ensure no dowry is demanded or taken.
  • Criminal law amendment bill 2012 should be amended.
  • Make journey in public transport safer, especially for women.
  • A special procedure for protecting persons with disabilities from rape and requisite procedures for access to justice for such persons
  • Run juvenile homes in the spirit envisaged in the Juvenile Justice Act; need a mechanism to run these homes. The panel has noted that juvenile homes have become breeding grounds of all sorts of sex crimes.
  • Government apathy towards missing children has to be shaken off.
  • Trafficking of minor children must be made a serious offence.
  • Trafficking will be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than seven years, but which may also extend to 10 years.
  • If any police officer, public servant is found trafficking a child there should be a stricter sentence against him.
  • The judiciary has the primary responsibility of ensuring fundamental rights through constitutional remedies. The CJI can take suo motu cognisance, social activists should assist the court...
  • In education, ensure non-discrimination for women and children. Education is the most potent tool of human development.

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